Session 4c: How Should We Measure Success by Tom Elenbaas

I’m not going to give you any answers, I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions probably. These are things that I’m kind of struggling with myself as I think about metrics and scorecard, and so I’ll just kind of unload a few things, and I’m going to go all the way back to 2007, 2008. So I’m not going to give anything new either, I’m going to give you old stuff.

Back in 2007, I went to the Willow Leadership Summit and a guy named Michael Porter spoke there. Maybe some of you were there, he’s a Harvard Business School leader, specialist in economics, and in social sector and a bunch of other things, and not a Christian, at least at the time he wasn’t a Christian, and at the time he said that the church is actually the greatest institution in the world to make the greatest difference, and he said, and it’s not, this is a non-Christians looking at the church, analyzing it from a business perspective and saying you have the ability, you have the resources, all the stuff to be able to have the greatest impact in the world, and you’re not, and then he kind of dismantled a bunch of things.

It really stuck with me and has stuck with me ever since in a sense of like the unrealized potential, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we actually are terrible at metrics, we’re terrible at scorecards, we’re terrible at actually measuring what really, there’s a great book called Measuring What Matters, actually put up my mission, India, which is a phenomenal book. We’re not great at measuring what matters, and I want to give you a couple shifts and I’ll try to go through these quickly.

But the first one’s a big shift for me anyway, something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time and I can’t say I’m wonderful at, sitting on the front seat of my car right now is like an 11 by 17 pages of Excel worksheet things, with all kinds of quantitative analysis on our church, we have six churches. So all this quantitative analysis on our churches right now, everything from finances, to baptisms, to numbers of people, to all that kind of stuff, and so I care about that stuff, and like I said, it’s sitting on the front seat of my car right now, I have a big meeting Wednesday morning around it, and here’s the big shift is I think that we have to shift away from quantitative analysis towards outcomes based qualitative analysis.

So this isn’t churchy language right, this is kind of businessy language. We’re moving away from quantitative analysis, and I’ll explain what I mean. To outcomes based qualitative analysis, whether we like it or not, we’re counting people, we’re counting baptisms, we’re counting new believers, we’re counting dollars, we’re counting, what did we say?

Butts in seats and dollars in plates, how we’re counting how big our churches are, we’re counting how many churches we’ve planted. We’re doing all this quantitative analysis, which I don’t think we do very well anyway, I mean, we’re not great at holding ourselves accountable to that, but we’re so growth focused. At least for me, I won’t speak about us, I’m saying we all say I, I get pushed into this really easily. At our table earlier, we were talking about the syncretism that the church has with American culture and American culture is what, up and to the right, right?

We grow everything, and if it’s big this year, it’s got to be bigger next year and it’s got to be bigger than next year, and the church has kind of taken that on as our mantra, right? I think that in some ways, we’ve synchrotized our Christian religion with our American up and to the right kind of sensibilities and anybody feel this but me, I mean, I feel the pressure of this, right?

We’ve had this many baptisms last year, so we need more next year. We had this as our budget last year, it needs to be bigger next year. We had this many people seated in our church 10 years ago, how many people do we still have seated at our church? Like, those are the things that, and we joke about this, and we go to conferences and I don’t think we talk about our numbers as much anymore as we used to, but we’re still doing a lot of, kind of measuring ourselves quantitatively.

I’ve sort of known this in my head for so long, right, and this past year has probably been one of the bigger gut checks around that, because I’ve recognized that the outcomes based qualitative analysis, right, what are we measuring on the backside of how people have been formed? It was a surprise to me that probably was in my head, and I didn’t realize before, but our people are not being formed and shaped in the way of Jesus and the way I hoped that they would have been, and I think I saw that just really, really prevalent over this last year, and I think that’s maybe true of me as well, my family, of our churches, and so I asked a couple of questions on that, that I think should be on our scorecard.

How are being people being formed? We talk a lot at our churches about how we realized over this last year that people are being much more formed by the world, and by the media and by all these things than they are being formed by the holy spirit in their hearts and the transformation that we’ve been teaching, and so how are people being formed, who are people being formed by?

Spiritual formation is happening every day and it’s not from us. So I think that should be on our scorecard, how are people being formed, who are they being formed by, and then last on that question is what is being produced then out of that formation? That’s the qualitative side, what kingdom producing is happening? I’m not talking about numbers again, but what actual changes are happening in our community, which brings me to 2008, I think it was, I’m not exactly sure.

Some of you, I think, were at this meeting, there was an RCA gathering in San Antonio, Texas called One Thing, I think, or something back in, anybody at this? Few people remember this, and Reggie McNeal spoke in there and he actually came out with a book on this called Missional Renaissance, but he spoke about it at the RCA gathering. Then he talked about some major shifts that have to happen, and here are the shifts that I think that really challenged me then and came back to me now as I think about, what are the qualitative things we ought to be measuring?

He talked about shifts from, these are from chapters three, five, and seven by the way, of Missional Renaissance. If you want to go there, it’s a great book. He talked about being church centric to being kingdom centric. Again, we talk about that a lot, but what do we measure? We measure our churches, we don’t measure our kingdom impact as much.

So I want to shift, how do we shift away from building our churches to building kingdom? Those are not the same thing. So that’s a shift, a shift from the church being the destination, to the church being the connector or from assimilating people to our thing, to deploying people into God’s thing. Again, I think a lot of us think about that in our heads, but are we actually doing that, are we assimilating people to our church or are we deploying them into the kingdom into mission?

I want to be measuring that, that’s an outcome based thing that I think we could be measuring qualitatively, in the same vein on that same one, I think this is in the same category, member or a tender to missionary, right? Are we counting those that are becoming a part of our thing, or are those that we are sending out into mission? Again, we talk about that a lot, but do we actually measure that? I think those are the kinds of outcomes that we want to measure.

Let’s see, there’s a bunch of them here, I’m not going to get to all of them. I’ll meddle a little bit on this one, from proclamation to demonstration or from, he has another shift from didactic to behavioral. I think what we’ve done is we’ve turned our product is preaching and music, rather than demonstrating the works in the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, and so what are we measuring, the number of people who are coming to our thing? And so our product continues to be preaching and music rather than kingdom, life, transforming things that are happening in our community. Again, what’s the outcome? What are we measuring? Let’s see, that’s probably enough on that.

There are several shifts in that book that I think are helpful, I’m being challenged I think to ask the question because we’ve always been a church, the one that I lead harbor churches, we’ve always been an up and to the right church, and we, I say this a lot, my job is to look at problems, right? To look at problems, to find solutions, to pick a good solution, to pull a lever, to shift the problem, to be able to continue to be up into the right, and I realized this last year that, that just didn’t work. There were no levers that I could pull, there were no answers to the problems that I was facing, and I realized that as I look back, the best way we could have avoided what happened to us in the church this past year was to have been making disciples over the last 20, 25 years.

And so it does come down to discipleship for the kingdom, not for the product that the church is producing by getting more people into our churches. That’s a hard thing to say because, this will be my last thing because I’m already a minute over I guess, but because most of the people in here are our salaries, and how we live our life is attached to getting more people into our churches and to raising the thing up into the right.

So I think we’ve got some hard questions to ask, into how do we lean further into evaluating whether kingdom work is being done, not just church production. So I think that’s a shift in the scorecard that I’m wrestling with. I probably wasn’t super articulate about that, but hopefully that helps you to see what’s going on, kind of in the internal wrestling that I’m having.

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